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Hash List “could be game-changer” in the global fight against child sexual abuse images online

The IWF will provide hashes of child sexual abuse images to the online industry to speed up the identification and removal of this content worldwide.

This enables the internet industry to actively protect their customers and help victims of child sexual abuse.

    Victims’ images can be identified and removed more quickly, preventing them from being shared time and time again.
    Child sexual abuse images will be prevented from being uploaded to the internet in the first place.
    This gives internet companies the power to stop people from repeatedly sharing the images on their services.
    Men, women and children of all ages are protected from accidentally stumbling across the images online.

The hash list steps up efforts to make the internet a hostile place to share, view, download and trade images of children being sexually abused.

Not to be confused with a “hash tag”, a hash is a digital fingerprint of an image. There are billions of images on the internet and by creating a digital fingerprint of a single image, you can pluck it out, like finding a needle in a haystack.

IWF will automatically begin creating three types of hashes to meet the needs of the online industry. It will create PhotoDNA (technology developed by Microsoft), MD5 and SHA-1 hashes.

Many internet companies can make use of the hash list. They could be companies which provide services such as:

    The upload, storage or search of images
    Filtering services
    Hosting services
    Social media and chat service
    Data centres
    Connectivity services.

Hashes will only be created from images that the highly-trained IWF analysts have assessed, regardless of whether the image was sourced from a public report, a report from the online industry, an image actively found by our analysts, or an image from the Home Office’s new Child Abuse Image Database (CAID).

In November 2014 during the #WePROTECT summit, Prime Minister David Cameron announced tougher measures to combat online child sexual abuse material. One of the focusses of the summit was to look at ways to improve identifying illegal images and getting them removed. During the summit, industry members agreed on a statement of action:

“Building on the success of technologies such as PhotoDNA and video hashing, we will continue to work on new tools and techniques to help improve the detection and removal of images and videos of child sexual abuse”.

As well as having access to CAID, the IWF are in the unique position where the hotline analysts are able to actively seek out child sexual abuse material using their expertise. On average, the IWF can take action to remove around 500 URLs (web addresses) containing child sexual abuse material every day. One URL may contain one, to thousands of images. By hashing all the child sexual abuse images found on each URL, the size of the hash list will increase significantly every day. It has the potential to reach millions of hashes of images. The more hashes given to the online industry, the greater the protection offered on companies’ online services.

Five IWF Members, Facebook, Google, Microsoft, Twitter and Yahoo, are using the hash list so far. The list will then be rolled out to all eligible Members.

IWF CEO Susie Hargreaves said: “The IWF Hash List could be a game-changer and really steps up the fight against child sexual abuse images online.

“This is something we have worked on with our Members since the Prime Ministers’ #WePROTECT summit last December. We’ll soon be able to offer the hash list to all IWF Members, who are based around the world.

“It means victims’ images can be identified and removed more quickly, and we can prevent known child sexual abuse images from being uploaded to the internet in the first place.”

Ends

 

IWF Hash List Q&As
What is a “hash”?

Not to be confused with a “hash tag”, a hash is a digital fingerprint of an image. There are billions of images on the internet and by creating a digital fingerprint of a single image, you can pluck it out, like finding a needle in a haystack.

What is the IWF Hash List and how does it work?

The IWF Hash List is a list of digital fingerprints of child sexual abuse images, which have been assessed by IWF analysts. The list of these digital fingerprints, or ‘hashes’ are used by licensed IWF Members to identify child sexual abuse images on their services. It is also used to prevent people from sharing, or uploading these images.

This is a graphic which shows how the IWF Hash List process works.



What happens once a hashed image is found on an IWF Member’s service?

Each IWF Member is unique and as such, operates differently from another. The aim of identifying child sexual abuse images through hashes is to alert the Member in order to delete the image. IWF’s goal is to enable the online industry to remove the images wherever they are hosted.
Are there hashes of videos on the IWF Hash List?

We are able to offer hashes of images only. We are currently working closely with an IWF Member to trial video hashing software. We hope to offer this in the near future.
How is the IWF Hash List governed?

We have a licence to govern the use of the hash list. The hash list is available to IWF Members only, who have also passed our vetting checks. The IWF controls the compilation and dissemination of the hash list. The IWF Member licensed to download this list is responsible for its correct implementation.
What is the difference between the IWF URL List and IWF Hash List?

The IWF URL List is a list of web addresses containing one or more child sexual abuse images. The web address directly targets the criminal image. Eligible IWF Members download the URL list and deploy it to protect their customers from stumbling across the images or videos. All the while work is taking place to delete the image(s) or video(s).

The hash list is a list of digital fingerprints of child sexual abuse images. It enables eligible IWF Members to find those images on their services and remove, block/filter, or prevent their upload in the first place.

As with both services, the IWF compiles the lists and the company taking the list is responsible for its accurate deployment.

Both methods aim to protect online users and prevent the revictimisation of child sexual abuse victims worldwide.
Can any company use the IWF Hash List?

Many internet companies can make use of the hash list. They could be companies which provide services such as:

    The upload, storage or search of images;
    Filtering services;
    Hosting services;
    Social media and chat services;
    Data centres;
    Connectivity services.

All could make use of the hash list to protect their customers, protect their services from criminal abuse and prevent the repeated victimisation of people who have been sexually abused as children.
How long have you been offering the IWF Hash List?

The IWF Hash List is a new service currently being used by five Members. All eligible Members will soon be offered the hash list.
How do you measure “success”?

Given that the IWF is able to actively search for child sexual abuse images, every day we will be adding more hashes of images to the hash list.

The more hashes of child sexual abuse images on the IWF Hash List, the greater the chance the IWF and industry have at eliminating this material.

The greater number of internet companies using the IWF Hash List, the greater the chance of making the open internet a hostile place to share, view, download and trade the images of children being sexually abused.

The IWF Hash List enables the internet industry to actively protect their customers and help victims of child sexual abuse.

    Victims’ images can be identified and removed more quickly, preventing them from being shared time and time again.
    Child sexual abuse images will be prevented from being uploaded to the internet in the first place. This gives internet companies the power to stop people from repeatedly sharing the images on their services.

Men, women and children of all ages are protected from accidentally stumbling across the images online.

The IWF Hash List steps up efforts to make the internet a hostile place to share, view, download and trade images of children being sexually abused.

This brings us closer to eliminating child sexual abuse images online, worldwide.
What is CAID and how does this relate to the hash list?

The Child Abuse Image Database (CAID) delivers the Prime Minister’s July 2013 commitment to put in place ‘a single, secure database’ of indecent images of children. It is helping the police to prosecute offenders and safeguard the victims of abuse.

CAID went live at the end of 2014 and contains indecent images of children as well as hashes of those images. All police forces across the UK are due to be connected and using CAID by the end of the year.

The Police have shared data from CAID with the IWF in order to assist our work with internet companies.

Report here